Interstate 595: Unfamiliar name, well-known pain

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

May 31, 1993

Traveled Interstate 595 lately?

Intrepid Commuter has and is none too happy. Whew, what a mess.

Chances are, you've driven this disaster in asphalt, too, and didn't realize it.

I-595 is the official designation given U.S. 50 from the Capital Beltway to the Rowe Boulevard exit in Annapolis by the Federal Highway Administration. The three-number designation identifies the road as part of the federally subsidized interstate highway system.

Like I-895 and I-395, it's a connector road. Major through roads get the two-number names like I-70 or I-95. (You can impress friends and make parents envious with that kind of trivial knowledge, kids.)

Whatever you call it, U.S. 50 has been a focus of attention for the State Highway Administration since the mid-1980s, when work began to relieve congestion, particularly for vacationers headed to Atlantic Ocean resorts on summer weekends.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on building miles of blacktop, new interchanges, bridges and overpasses from that unpleasant place called Washington to the tranquil, scenic and affordable Eastern Shore. (Real estate brochures still available.)

The latest project has been one of the most painful. If you live in or commute through Anne Arundel County, you're probably all too aware of that.

Since May 1992, workers have been widening U.S. 50 from four to six lanes between I-97 and just west of the Patuxent River in Prince George's County. Simultaneously, crews have been creating an interchange at the intersection with U.S. 301/Route 3.

Together, the projects are costing taxpayers $93 million. And so far, all we've got to show for our money are traffic tie-ups caused by the periodic lane closures and a narrow, winding eight miles of New Jersey barriers.

"You're used to the 12-foot-wide lanes and shoulders and we've got 11-foot lanes and barriers on both sides," says Ernie Hodshon, SHA assistant district engineer for construction in Anne Arundel, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.

"It's difficult on people psychologically," he said.

To be fair, there may not be much Mr. Hodshon and the SHA can do about the unpleasantness of this project. And it probably doesn't help that some motorists rush through the construction zone at 70 mph instead of the posted 50.

Nevertheless, breakdowns can be traffic-killers on U.S. 50 these days. To compensate, a mechanic hired by the contractor makes regular passes on the highway to look for stranded motorists. Emergency pull-offs have been created at a half-dozen sites to help disabled vehicles.

Soon there will be pull-offs created so that police can stop speeders, too. (Drivers be forewarned: Fines are doubled in an SHA work zone.)

Mr. Hodshon is also firm about one thing. Now that the summer travel season is here, he won't allow construction on weekends. That means no lane closures or slow-moving trucks pulling out onto the highway.

Intrepid's First Law: Stop when you see red

When does a left-turn arrow mean turn left and then stop?

The question ran through Barry Guralnick's mind recently when the city resident confronted the intersection of McCulloh Street and Gwynns Falls Parkway in West Baltimore.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the intersection, pay attention. You are likely to confront crossings like this, and you need an education.

Mr. Guralnick was driving north on McCulloh and turning left on Gwynns Falls. The parkway has a wide median and so right after you turn you confront the traffic signal stopping westbound Gwynns Falls.

Now, here's the question.

"Is it necessary to stop in the median strip when there is no opposing traffic headed south?" Mr. Guralnick writes. "Traffic always stops for the east-west light after you get a green north-south light."

Well, Barry, I'm glad you asked that question. As a rule, the Intrepid One brakes for red lights and you should, too.

We received a confirmation on that point from Vanessa Pyatt, the oft-quoted spokeswoman for the city's Public Works

Department. The light doesn't stop southbound cars for left-turners like yourself.

Mrs. Pyatt says the light lacks that capability, incidentally. And there are no plans to upgrade the equipment.

So, please, please stop at red lights, OK?

Incidentally, Mr. Guralnick also points out in his letter that the sign for the zoo one intersection north points in the wrong directions.

We advised Mrs. Pyatt who claims vandals are responsible. The city may already have corrected the problem by the time you read this.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Write to the Intrepid Commuter, c/o The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278. Please include your name and telephone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.

Or use your Touch-Tone phone to call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at 783-1800, and enter Ext. 4305. Call 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County.

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